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A Complete Guide For Your First Time in Thailand

  • Post last modified:September 18, 2023
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Are you looking to travel for your first time in Thailand? Well, you came to the right place. After a full two week trip around the country, I learned a ton, and am here to share all of that with you, so that you can have the most epic trip ever.


From island hopping in the south, to temple hopping in the north, there is a ton to explore in this country. To get a great taste of the country, I found two weeks to be a great amount of time. However, I'll be sharing all different things, so that you can decide where exactly you'd want to go for your first time in Thailand.


Maybe it isn't your first time in Thailand- well that's okay too! In this complete guide we're going to cover everything you need to know for visiting. From hot spots to hidden gems, and getting there to getting around, we're here to share it all. So without further ado, let's jump right in to our complete travel guide for Thailand.

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Where is Thailand?

The country of Thailand is located in South East Asia. It has borders with Cambodia to the south east, Laos to the east, Myanmar to the west, and Malaysia to the south. Its capital city is Bangkok, which is located centrally in the country, and is a huge hub for this area of Asia.

where is Thailand

Thailand is located in South East Asia.


How to Get to Thailand

There are plenty of points of entry to visit Thailand. The most popular city to fly into for someone's first time in Thailand is usually Bangkok, the capital. Other popular cities to fly into that are well-connected with other Asian cities include Chiang Mai, Phuket, and Krabi.


We've created complete guides for all four cities, so you can check out our different articles below to see a full list of cities that fly into each:


Flights to Bangkok

Flights to Chiang Mai

Flights to Phuket

Flights to Krabi


You can also easily check for the cheapest flights to Thailand in the box below! With Skyscanner you can put "from your city" and "to Thailand" to see which city is the cheapest to fly to. As well, you can check the calendar to see which dates are the cheapest to fly from your city to Thailand.

If you plan on visiting Thailand via land, here are a couple of the different routes that you can take:

Luang Prabong to Chiang Rai

Phnom Penh to Bangkok

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Entry Requirements for Thailand

If you're looking to travel to Thailand, you'll need to keep in mind the different requirements in order to enter the country. Here's everything you need to know for visiting Thailand.


Visa Requirements for Thailand

The most important thing before booking your flight is to make sure you can enter the country of Thailand without any problems due to needing a visa. Currently, Thailand offers visa-free visits for up to 30 days. This is for 64 different nationalities, and they also allow 18 others to receive their visa upon arrival.


If you'd like to extend your stay in Thailand for more than 30 days, you can then apply for an extension to either 60 or 90 days. In order to do this you can just do so at your local embassy, or apply once you are already in Thailand for $30. Another option for this to keep in mind is that you can leave the country and visit a neighboring one. Then once you come back you can restart your 30 days again in the country.


If you'd like some more detailed info on Thailand's visa process, or to see if you need to apply for one, you can simply check the official site for visas in Thailand.


Covid Entry Requirements for Thailand

Thailand, along with plenty of other Asian countries, have been extremely  conservative when it has come to opening up for tourism. As of last year though (2022), Thailand is back open to tourists that are fully vaccinated, or those who obtain a negative Covid test result within 72 hours of flying.


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Local Adjustments

When traveling somewhere new, there are certain things that you may not think of, that could be different from where you are coming from. Here are a few of the local adjustments to have in mind for your first time in Thailand.


Language

The official language in Thailand is Thai. If you're from a western country, then it definitely won't be a simple language to pick up. While many streets vendors and taxis won't speak much English, hotel staff and bigger restaurants and shops most likely will be able to speak a bit.


If you want to make things easier during your trip, it is definitely worth taking the time to learn Thai in the run-up to your travels. This means easier communication with locals, and a better opportunity to immerse yourself in the local traditions and customs.


Currency

The currency used in Thailand is the Thai Baht. Currently (September 2023) every 1 USD or 1 Euro is equal to 35.76 Thai Baht.


It's important to note that it's very rare to be able to use a credit card almost anywhere in Thailand. Unless you are staying at a fancy hotel or dining at a high-end restaurant, cash is pretty much the only method of payment that is accepted in most places. (There is also a transfer option, but this is only for people that have a local bank account).


Outlets

Thailand's electrical outlets are great for most westerners when it comes to electrical outlets, as they can serve both American and European appliances. The plug types that are accepted include A, B, & C. The standard voltage in Thailand is 230 V, and has a standard frequency of 50 Hz.


It's important to know this if you have appliances from the Americas, because although your appliances may fit in the plug, the energy will not be the same. In this case, you'll have to purchase an energy converter to avoid blowing out your electronic devices.

Water Potability

The water in Thailand overall is not great to drink. Locals recommend not drinking the tap water and always sticking to bottled water, especially in the south. Our personal suggestion is to buy a large jug of water from the super market, and then continue to fill up your reusable water bottle.


Tipping Culture

The tipping culture in Thailand is not really one that has an exact standard. Tipping in Thailand isn't so typical. However, the more high-end the establishment, the more likely you will find people tipping a little (up to 10%). For street food, taxis, and services like salons, it isn't necessary at all to tip.


However, if you're dining at a 5-star restaurant, or have someone helping you in a hotel, then you can considering leaving a little something extra.

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The Best Places to Travel for Your First Time in Thailand

Now that you know all of the basics for your first time in Thailand, let's jump into the fun stuff! Here are the best places to visit for your first time in Thailand.


Bangkok

Heading to the capital is definitely a must, especially for your first time in Thailand. Bangkok is one of the biggest cities in Asia, and is full of beautiful temples, trendy rooftops, and the world best markets. Speaking of markets- you'll definitely want to come here to check out the famous floating markets, as well as the train market.


Wat Arun, first time in Thailand
Bangkok, first time in Thailand
Wat arun, what to do in Bangkok

Bangkok has plenty of fun things to see and do.

Want to sign up for some tours to see the best of Bangkok? Here are some of our favorites:

Want to learn more about Bangkok? Make sure to check out our full travel guide.



Looking for places to stay in Bangkok? You can check the map below for accommodation options:

Booking.com

Krabi

If you'd like to spend your first time in Thailand at one of the most famous beaches in the country, then this is a great place to choose. Krabi is well connected to a lot of the islands, and the closest area to fly to in order to visit Railay Beach. Hot springs, jungles, and markets are also some of the other cool things you can find while in the area, making it great for adventure lovers.

Railay Beach, Thailand

Krabi is home to one of the best beaches in Thailand.

Here are some fun tours that you can book if you plan on traveling to Krabi:

Want to learn more about Krabi? Don't miss out on our complete guide.



Want to book a place to stay in Krabi? Check the map for the different options:

Booking.com

Phuket

This is another one of the hubs in southern Thailand. Phuket is known for its amazing night markets, the giant Buddha, and having wild monkeys. It's a great place to stay if you want to have a mix of city, beach, and nature. It has great access to other islands, and has something for every budget.


Big Buddha, first time in Thailand
monkey hill, Phuket weekend market, things to do in Phuket, Thailand
Phuket, first time in Thailand

Phuket has a great mix of culture and nature.

Here are a few fun tours that you can check out in the area of Phuket:

Want to learn more about Phuket? Don't forget to read our complete travel guide.



Looking for a place to book in Phuket? You can just check the map below:

Booking.com

The Phi Phi Islands

Have you ever seen pictures of those iconic beaches and stunning turquoise waters? Well, the Phi Phi islands are home to many of them. I stayed on Koh Phi Phi, and absolutely loved my time there. From wild beach parties to fun boats trips, this is definitely one of my top recommendations for anyone's first time in Thailand. Located between Phuket and Krabi, they can be visited also as day trips from either.


Koh Phi Phi, first time in Thailand
Koh Phi Phi, first time in Thailand
Koh Phi Phi, first time in Thailand

Koh Phi Phi is the hub for the Phi Phi Islands.

Want to check out some of the tours around the Phi Phi Islands? Here are a few you may like:

Ready to learn more about these islands? Make sure to give a read to our full blog article.


Suggested Read: The Phi Phi Islands, Thailand: A Complete Guide


Looking for a place in Koh Phi Phi? Here are some options you can choose from:

Booking.com

Chiang Mai

If you're looking for the best elephant sanctuary in Thailand, then Chiang Mai is your spot. This city is the most popular northern city in Thailand, and full of young backpackers. Chiang Mai's city center has a tons of gorgeous temples, and some really fun night markets. With a great mix of nightlife and culture, this is definitely one of the top spots for anyone's first time in Thailand.


Chiang Mai, first time in Thailand
straw market,Chiang Mai, first time in Thailand
Chiang Mai, first time in Thailand

Chiang Mai has beautiful temples and great markets.

Chiang Mai is also home to tons of elephant sanctuaries, so if you want to experience feeding, bathing, or trekking with elephants, then make sure to add this city to your bucket list.

best elephant sanctuary, first time in Thailand

Want to take a tour to explore the best of Chiang Mai? Here are a few good ones:

Want to learn more about Chiang Mai or find an ethical elephant sanctuary? Make sure to check out our two other articles below:



Want to book a place in Chia Mai? Just check the map below:

Booking.com

Chiang Rai

Looking to explore the most stunning temples in all of Thailand? Well, Chiang Rai is where you'll find them. Just a few hours from Chiang Mai, this is popular as a day trip rather than spending several days here. We stayed two nights and one full day, which we think is perfect for your first time in Thailand.


white temple, things to do in Chiang Rai
Blue Temple, things to do in Chiang Rai
gold temple Chiang Mai

Chiang Rai has the most beautiful temples in Thailand.

Want to take a tour of the highlights of Chiang Rai? Here are a few that you can take from both Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.

Want to learn more about Chiang Rai? Don't miss out on our full travel guide.



Looking for accommodation in Chiang Rai? Just refer to the map below:

Booking.com

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The Best Things to Do for Your First Time in Thailand

Now that you know the best places to travel for your first time in Thailand, let's look at all of the fun activities to check off your bucket list.


Explore the Temples

If you've ever visited Europe, then you know that every city is full of churches. Well, in Thailand, they're full of temples. Temples in Thailand are more than just architectural masterpieces, but they are colorful and fun. Some of my personal favorite are the white  temple and blue temple in Chiang Rai, The Big Buddha in Phuket, and Wat Samphran and Wat Arun in Bangkok.

Bangkok, first time in Thailand
Blue Temple, things to do in Chiang Rai
white temple, things to do in Chiang Rai

Thailand is full of gorgeous temples.

It's important to know that there are strict rules for entering temples in Thailand, so make sure to be dressed properly before visiting.

Browse the Markets

If it's another thing that Thailand is known for, it's the markets. This country is home to some of the biggest markets in the world, and they are full of everything from homemade crafts to delicious street food. Some of the best ones to add to your list are Phukets night market and Chatachuk market in Bangkok, which has 15,000 stalls!


Thailand's markets are not only impressive by size, but also by variety. Just outside the capital you can find a market built on a running train track, where a train comes through and vendors frantically move their items. Another awesome one is the floating market (there are actually several) where you can sail around to do your shopping.

train market, first time in Thailand

Thailand has a market that a train runs right through every day.

Visit the Beaches

For your first time in Thailand you definitely can't miss out on the beaches. Southern Thailand is home to some truly stunning landscapes. With white sands, striking rock formations, and turquoise waters, there is no reason not to love this part of the country.


Some of our personal favorites include Railay Beach, Maya Bay, and Freedom Beach.

Railay Beach, things to do at Krabi, Thailand
Railay Beach, things to do at Krabi, Thailand
Railay Beach, things to do at Krabi, Thailand

Railay Beach is one of the best beaches in Thailand.

Suggested Read: Railay Beach: A Guide to One of Thailand's Most Beautiful Beaches


Take a Long Tailed Boat Ride

While you're checking out the beautiful beaches of Thailand, you'll also definitely want to ride in one of the iconic long-tailed boats. All over Southern Thailand you can find them, and there are both public and private tours that you can take. We definitely suggest adding this to your bucket list, and exploring the stunning islands and beaches with a long=tailed boat.

Koh Phi Phi, first time in Thailand

Taking a long-tailed boat is a must while in Thailand.

Play With the Elephants

One of my best memories from my first time in Thailand was my elephant encounter. Elephant tourism is huge in Thailand, and it is important to make sure you are visiting an ethical place though. There are actually sanctuaries that save elephants and then let you bathe, feed, or trek with them.


I wrote an entire article about one of the best elephant sanctuaries in Thailand, so make sure to check it out!


Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand. what to do in Chiang Mai
Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand. what to do in Chiang Mai
best elephant sanctuary in Thailand

We visited one of the best elephant sanctuaries in Thailand.


Take a Thai Cooking Class

Thai food is super delicious, and what better way to dive into the culture than learning how to cook their dishes? We love cooking classes as it really lets you connect with locals and take some knowledge back home with you. You can find cooking classes in bigger cities like Bangkok or Chiang Mai. Want to know some good ones? Check the links below:

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Go to a Full Moon Party

If you like to party then you definitely need to add a Full Moon Party to your bucket list. Each month thousands of people flood the island of Koh Phangan for the most epic celebrations. The full moon party goes all night long while tourists dance on the beach, paint each other, and watch shows like fire dancers performing.


2023 Full Moon Party Dates:

  • Friday, January 6th
  • Sunday, February 5th
  • Tuesday, March 7th
  • Friday, April 5th
  • Friday, May 4th
  • Sunday, June 4th
  • Sunday, July 2nd
  • Thursday, August 3rd
  • Thursday, August 31st
  • September 29th
  • Friday, September 29th
  • Monday, October 30th
  • Monday, November 27th
  • Wednesday, December 27th
  • Sunday, December 31st
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Getting Around Thailand

Thailand is a rather big country, and a lot of the highlights are pretty far apart. However, there are plenty of ways to get around the country. Here are all of the different options that you can look at.


Flying Around Thailand

The main way that we traveled around the country was by flight. Air Asia and Thai Airways both have plenty of domestic flights, and tickets run for an average of $50. Here are a few popular routes that you can book:


Bangkok to Phuket

Bangkok to Krabi

Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Bangkok to Chiang Rai

Krabi to Bangkok

Krabi to Chiang Mai


Taking Buses Around Thailand

If you're on a bit of a tighter budget, or don't like flying, you can also take buses to get from one place to another. Here are some of the most popular routes that you can book:


Bangkok to Phuket

Bangkok to Krabi 

Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Bangkok to Chiang Rai

Krabi to Bangkok

Krabi to Chiang Mai

Krabi to Phuket

Phuket to Krabi

Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Chiang Mai to Pai

Pai to Chiang Mai

Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai

Chiang Rai to Bangkok



Taking Trains Around Thailand

One of the options that we didn't even know about until recently, was that there are in fact a few trains that run throughout Thailand. There are five lines that go through the country, with Bangkok as the central hub. Here are some of the most popular routes that you can take:


Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Bangkok to Surat Thani

Bangkok to Pattaya

Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Surat Thani to Bangkok

Pattaya to Bangkok


Renting a Car in Thailand

If you want to get around faster than buses, but don't want to fly, or if you want to freedom of not having things booked, then renting a car is a great way to get around. Big cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket, and Krabi all have rental car services, mostly in the airports upon arrival.


Driving around Thailand is rather easy, and the roads are smooth for the most part. The only important thing to note is that they drive on the left side of the road. This was a bit strange for me at first, but after a full day or two I was able to get used to it.


Local Food & Drink in Thailand

Whether it's your first time in Thailand or not, diving into the local cuisine in a must! Here are some of the top dishes you should try.

  • Pad Thai: A Thai classic! This stir fried rice noodle dish is mixed with scrambled eggs, peanuts, and can have seafood or meat added to it.
  • Tom Yum: A hot and sour soup, typically served with shrimp
  • Thai Green Curry: Often served with chicken, and is pretty spicy
  • Khao Soi Gai Nong: Coconut curry noodle soup
  • Larb: Spicy chicken salad
  • Vegetable with Oyster Sauce: This can be brussel sprouts, broccoli, or morning glory sautéed in a salty sauce
  • Mango Sticky Rice: Sweet sticky rice that's served with slices of mango
  • Coconut Ice Cream: Creamy and often served with sticky rice and various toppings
  • Coconut Shake: My absolute favorite- for under $1 you can find these sold all over the streets in any cit.
  • Phulae Pineapple: A tiny pineapple native to the area that is super sweet
  • Thai Tea: Black tea served over ice with sugar and condensed milk, served over ice
  • Other Street Foods: Thailand has some crazy street food such as fried jellyfish, crispy butter, or deep-fried insects. Head to the markets to try some wild street foods if you're feeling particularly adventurous.
coconut curry soup, food in Chiang Rai
coconut ice cream, first time in Thailand
Garlic 1992 Restaurant, Koh Phi Phi

Thailand has so much great dishes to try.


Is Thailand Safe?

Overall, Thailand is a pretty safe country. It's a great place for all types of travelers. I've gone as a couple, and for a girls trip, and found it to be great for both. I also met a ton of solo travelers, and found that it is super backpacker friendly, and safe for young travelers as well.


The only thing you'll want to be aware of for your first time in Thailand, is to be well aware of your belongings. While we didn't experience anything bad, we have heard of tourists losing their phones to motorcycles driving by and snatching them.


Especially in the touristy areas in the south of Thailand, westerners can be big targets for getting ripped off. Make sure to check prices before accepting anything, and learn how to bargain and keep your whits about you.


Other Things to Know For Your First Time in Thailand

Now that you know all of the amazing places to visit, and things to do around the country, let's go over a few other things. Here are a few extra tips for planning your first time in Thailand.


Weather in Thailand

Thailand only has two seasons- rainy and dry. The dry season consists of hot and sunny days, starting in November, and finishing in June. The rainy season goes from July to October, and is extremely humid, with frequent showers. Sometimes it may just rain for a few minutes in a day, while other days the rain can be extremely heavy and be for the majority of the day.


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The Best Time to Visit Thailand

The best time to take a trip for your first time in Thailand will definitely depend on what kind of trip you'd like to have. If you want to be there for the biggest parties and the best weather, then you'll want to visit from November to February. If you'd like fewer crowds, but still want to party a bit, then August will be a great time, as it's when most Europeans travel to Thailand.


If you'd like fewer crowds but with better chances of sunshine, we would suggest to visit in the shoulder months such as March or October.


Another important thing to keep in mind for your first time in Thailand, is that you'll definitely want to pay attention to the time of month. The full moon parties happen every month around the full moon, so we definitely think you should plan your trip around these dates.


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Packing for a Trip to Thailand

Here are a list of some of the things we definitely recommend bringing on your trip to Thailand:



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Thailand is an incredible country, and it definitely deserves at least a few weeks to explore most of the highlights. If it is your first time in Thailand then I suggest a couple of days for Bangkok, a couple for the north, and then the rest in the south the explore the islands.


Want to learn more about these great spots throughout the country? Make sure to not miss out on all of the other complete guides we have.


Ready to start planning your trip? Well, let us do the hard work. We can create you an epic customized itinerary, and help you save money along the way. Want to know more about how it works? Take a look at some of the travel planning packages that we offer!


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